It had seemed like forever since I last flew my glider. At the end of 2019 I lost my father to cancer and 2020 didn’t get off to a great start with the Covid-19 pandemic that forced lockdown upon us. With schools closed and the world now a crazy different place, flying had dropped far down my priority list.
I arrived at the Devil’s Dyke at 10am and the car park was already busy. Many hang gliders had already been rigged and the sky was full of paragliders, most of which were low. I hadn’t checked the forecast on Sunday morning for fear of jinxing the day, so I hadn’t realised it had now been forecast to be light in the morning and increasing; quite the opposite to what I had expected from Saturday’s forecast.
I rigged my glider in the paddock and when I was ready, most of the paragliders had landed as the wind speed had increased. It was now perfect. The wind was off towards the north so after I launched, I headed straight down to Truleigh Hill. The air wasn’t particularly buoyant, but I easily stayed above ridge height. At Truleigh Hill I joined Nicos and another pilot. Thermals bubbled up through the ridge lift and Nicos and I circled together in one of them. Thermal drift was very pronounced, and I struggled to get much higher than 1000 feet above take-off. Each time I had to leave lift for fear of being blown over the back.
A couple of sail planes, probably from the Southdown Gliding Club, had also joined us on the ridge. I had somehow manged to climb well above everyone and as I looked down, I spotted a Buzzard as it rapidly climbed from below. Its attention was very much on the two hang gliders beneath. As the Buzzard rapidly ascended towards me, I shouted an “Oi!” at the Buzzard. Its reaction was nothing less than comical as it first appeared to jump as I startled it then set-off around me as it rocketed upwards! I regretted not having the video camera as that was truly a special moment!
As I oscillated upward and downward in the thermals and accompanying sink, I pushed out front beyond the road that runs along the bottom of the Truleigh ridge run. I had set a mental note to head back to the hill if my altitude dropped below 400 feet above take-off. I struggled to penetrate upwind but slowly made progress, topping up my height in thermals that rippled along through the breeze. As I headed northwards, I began to look for Ian’s house and for a moment, contemplated landing out. I couldn’t spot it and gave up on that venture and returned to the ridge.
I had been using muscles that I had not used in months and my body began to ache in protest. I decided it was now time to head back and after one final climb, set off along the ridge on a beeline for the top landing field.
I arrived with plenty of height. Some gliders had already landed in the large field and the wind was notably stronger than when I had launched. I pulled on plenty of speed as I turned into wind for my landing approach. As I looked down at my desired landing spot, I couldn’t believe how many people were wandering around. I shouted a “Hang Glider Landing” to get the attention of those below and some responded and looked up at me. At least I now had their attention, but still had to nudge the glider into a clearer spot.
The wind gradient was very pronounced and as I dropped the final 6 feet a little more rapidly than I had expected, I didn’t quite get my feet fully under me and gracefully landed on my knees, much to the amusement for the audience that had focussed their attention in my direction. I then rapidly reached for the nose wires to secure the glider. It was far from graceful, but I had landed safely and grinned from ear to ear as I reflected on the flight I had just had.
I struggled to carry my glider towards the earthworks and while doing so, witnessed several other pilots falling foul of the steep wind gradient. One glider spectacularly bent a left upright as the glider took the brunt of the impact. Fortunately, despite a jarred shoulder, the pilot appeared to be ok.
That concluded my flying for the day. It was still flyable, but I was flown out and packed up and returned to my van to find it had been boxed-in in the car park. After some very careful manoeuvring, I escaped and headed home. It was good to get back into the air after a 13 month break!
|Flight Type||Hill Launch|
|Glider||Wills Wing U2 160|
|Launch Date/Time||11 Oct 2020 / 11:37|
|Flight Duration||0h 57m|
|Comments||NNW; 15-20mph; Got stronger during the flight. Thermic. Top landed, very pronounced wind gradient - caught a few people out.|
|Track Log||Download (KML/KMZ)|